The Christmas season is the best of times, but sometimes the worst of times, too — or at least it can feel that way.
The lights are beautiful, the parties are fun, the presents are exciting, and the pictures are cute.
But, it’s also exhausting and stressful.
For some, it is a reminder of how little they have, as they try to buy presents for kids, teachers, and parties, and still pay the bills. For others it is grief mixed with joy because there is an empty chair that should be filled with a loved one’s presence. And for still others, time shared between families must be negotiated and navigated and no one seems satisfied.
Even when we all manage to focus on the “reason for the season”— Jesus, eternal Son of God, who came to live among us — the season can still be overwhelming.
It is in these moments, the exhaustion between activity, the sadness between parties, the despair in the joy, that we need the truth of the incarnation — the fact that the God of the universe left his place in heaven to not only be among us, but to be one of us. He emptied himself, humbled himself, and experienced everything that it means to be a human. The exhaustion, the grief, the relationship struggles, and the pain.
In one of the most well-known messianic prophecies, the prophet Isaiah foretells of a coming Messiah. But who he describes is not the conquering King the people were hoping and longing for. Instead, he describes a suffering servant.
Here are just a few of the descriptions Isaiah gave:
“…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:2b-3)
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth…by oppression and judgment he was taken away…” (Isaiah 53: 7a, 8a)
“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.” (Isaiah 53: 11)
I don’t know what this Christmas season has been, or will be, for you.
I hope it’s been, and continues to be, really fun and beautiful. I hope it’s been full of joy, peace, hope, and love, found in the reality of Immanuel, God with us.
But if that feels distant sometimes, know that Jesus came to be with us and become one of us —even the hard parts — because he loves us.
The incarnation is beautiful and mysterious, absolutely necessary for our salvation, and a comforting gift. It’s comforting to know we worship a God who sympathizes with us and saves us; who understands the mess and pain of this world because he lived with us in it; and who promises to one day completely eradicate the mess and pain of this world.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
During Christmas we celebrate the majesty and beauty of who Christ is: the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the Eternal Son of God, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords!
But, don’t forget the beauty of his humility in becoming a vulnerable baby born in the manger. Don’t forget the reality of his tears when he lost his friend in death. Don’t forget the pain he experienced when one of his closest friends betrayed him completely. Don’t forget the real physical suffering he experienced at Calvary on your behalf.
That first Christmas, the Son of God came to earth to return us to God.
And some two thousand years later, in this Christmas, whatever it looks like for you, whatever you are facing, however you are feeling, you can still draw near to God.
Christmas is a beautiful time to celebrate that Jesus our Messiah came to earth to rescue us. But let us also remember and rest in the truth that our Savior is also a Suffering Servant; one who knows and understands the depth of our exhaustion, suffering, and grief.
This Christmas, rejoice for Jesus, the Son of God. But take time to rest, knowing that he knows exactly what you’re going through, as Jesus, the Son of Man.